The former executive director of the Apalachicola Housing Authority has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $11,000 from her employer at the tail end of the nearly four years she served as director.
Selena Jo Noblit, as well as her defense counsel Randolph P. Murrell, signed a plea agreement Aug. 29 with Eric K. Mountin, assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida that could result in her receiving up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.
Noblit, 42, also agreed to pay a $100 special monetary assessment prior to her sentencing in mid-November before Judge Robert L. Hinkle on the single count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds.
Because the housing authority receives in the neighborhood of a quarter million dollars annually in operating subsidies from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the case was investigated by HUD’s Office of Inspector General and prosecuted in federal court in Panama City.
A statement of facts, also signed by Noblit, Murrell and Mountin, accompanies the plea agreement and outlines Nobilt’s misdeeds.
The statement said Noblit was promoted in July 2008 from housing manager / occupancy specialist to director, which enabled her to receive an American Express card to cover operational expenses for the housing authority.
The statement said that after American Express requested payment from the executive director who preceded Noblit, the only individuals with access to the account and whose name was still connected with the credit card, “HUD became aware of suspicious purchases” on the monthly statement.
Between June 2011 and May 2012, Noblit made about $8,871 in personal purchases, said the statement of facts. In all, she racked up about $11,126 worth of personal charges, based on a review of American Express and various department store records.
Personal expenses included purchase of food, junior clothing, tools, restaurant dining, dental care, a theme park visit and vehicle refinishing.
The statement of fact went on to say that when she was interviewed at her residence by HUD investigators in Aug, 2012, a month after she was fired as housing director, Noblit said her husband had repaid the unauthorized charges a week earlier, when he went to collect her personal belongings from the housing authority office. She said he delivered cashier checks for approximately $11,000 as payment for the charges.
Nopblit “admitted she began using the Aemrcian Express card for personal expenses in 2011, but intended to repay the expenses,” reads the statement of fact. “She explained that she was unable to ‘co-mingle’ her personal money with the (housing authority) money, and wanted to repay the charges from her paycheck, but did not know how to do so.”
First established in 1962, the housing authority oversees 54 public housing units on two sites within the city.
Earlier this year, Steve Lanier, an Apalachicola native and former comptroller at Weems Memorial Hospital, was named as the housing director, replacing interim director Paul Mills. Lanier completed a Navy career a few years ago in Key West.